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NFL expert Mike Spector breaks down the AFC Wild Card Round matchup between the Las Vegas Raiders and Cincinnati Bengals.
ANALYSIS

Cincinnati Bengals vs. Las Vegas Raiders Prediction: Will Momentum Carry the Raiders to Victory in the AFC Wild Card?

The Las Vegas Raiders could have simply played for a tie last week against the Chargers and still have earned a playoff spot. Instead, they were aggressive in going for the win and produced one of the most thrilling regular-season victories you will ever see. As a result, they head to Cincinnati to face the Bengals while a tie would have sent them to Kansas City. 

Will the Raiders capitalize on the momentum from last week’s win? Or will Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow and Joe Mixon benefit from having last week off? Let’s dive into our picks for the first playoff game of the weekend.

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Cincinnati Bengals vs. Las Vegas Raiders Start Time, Where to Watch, and Odds

Date: Saturday, January 15

Game Time: 4:35 pm ET

Where to Watch: NBC

Click Here for Bengals vs Raiders Odds

Bengals vs. Raiders INJURY REPORT

Raiders

Questionable: LB Marquel Lee, OT Kamaal Seymour, DT Kendal Vickers

Out: DT Darius Philon, S Johnathan Abram

Bengals

Questionable: DT Josh Tupou, DE Cam Sample, PK Evan McPherson

Out: OT Riley Reiff

Cincinnati Bengals vs. Las Vegas Raiders Line Movement

Bengals vs. Raiders AFC Wild Card Prediction

Las Vegas’ playoff hopes were left for dead after starting 6-7 and facing a brutal four-game stretch of opponents to end the regular season. However, the Raiders found ways to win consistently close games for the last month. Their margin of victories over the previous four weeks were two, four, three, and three, making them the first team in NFL history with four straight wins by four or fewer points to end the regular season. The Raiders also set another NFL record this year, scoring the winning points on the game’s final play six times. 

None of the eight division winners in the NFL this year was more of a shock than the Cincinnati Bengals, who had +2500 preseason odds to win the AFC North. By clinching the division in Week 17 with a massive win over Kansas City, it afforded the Bengals the luxury of resting Joe Burrow and Joe Mixon (among others) last week. The Raiders will have to contend with wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, whose 1,455 receiving yards set a Bengals single-season record. 

Many bettors will look at Cincinnati’s 32-13 Week 11 in Las Vegas and declare that this week’s -6 point spread odds are much too low. However, the Bengals had a 16-13 lead with 11 minutes to go in that game before a late offensive barrage put the game out of reach. 

One reason to confidently back Las Vegas this week is an underrated pass rush. From 2018-20, right after the team traded away Khalil Mack, the Raiders pressured opposing quarterbacks 25% of the time, ranking 31st in the league. This year, Las Vegas’ 31% pressure percentage ranks sixth in the league. Their fierce pass rush is spearheaded by the unblockable Maxx Crosby, whose 68 pressures this season are the most in the NFL. He is a big reason why Las Vegas has allowed less than 20 points per game during their current four-game winning streak. Cincinnati’s offensive line is not the most elite pass-blocking unit, so this is an area the Raiders will look to exploit. 

Las Vegas has been fighting for their playoff lives for a month now and has always found ways to win close games. While they have benefitted from playing Cleveland’s third-string quarterback or Carson Wentz off a COVID-19 illness in that stretch, they still won ten games in one of the toughest divisions in football. The Raiders are the healthiest they have been in quite some time, with Josh Jacobs and Darren Waller able to suit up last week. And the momentum factor is clearly on their side, while there is a bit of rust to worry about with Cincinnati coming off a quasi-bye week.

No matter how you slice it, the Bengals are a better matchup for the Raiders than the Chiefs, who were Las Vegas’ other potential first-round opponents. Las Vegas is 6-2 ATS in their last eight games as road underdogs, and we look for them to ride their magical postseason run to at least a cover in this game.

Cincinnati Bengals vs. Las Vegas Raiders Pick

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Mike Spector brings unmatched knowledge and insight into the game of football, and more importantly the process of betting on NFL football. Mike is the #2 ranked expert in FantasyPros' NFL betting contest

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